A Review of ‘The Daughter of Time’

Tudors

Anyone with a passing interest in the study of the fifteenth century has heard of Josephine Tey’s book ‘A Daughter of Time’, a mystery novel from 1951 often mentioned in heated discussions regarding the guilt, or otherwise, of Richard III in the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. We are often told, in a most-determined manner, that Richard could not have committed the deed, with the facts outlined in Tey’s book providing the basis of any argument. It is not unlike the recent phenomenon we see with the work of Philippa Gregory, where some use the work of fiction to bolster their verdict, a case in point being the recent belief that Margaret Beaufort plotted her entire life to place her son on the throne, against any known historical evidence. Fictional accounts are, it seems, heavily influential in forming the opinions of some people in how history unravelled.

I have always been mildly amused by how much influence this particular fiction book has had on Ricardians. Many of these subscribers to the belief that Richard III was a good man undone by Tudor treachery and propaganda proudly note that their views originated with Tey’s book. By its very nature, however, a fictional book surely can’t be used as supporting evidence in an historical debate. It is not ‘real history’, after all, but make-believe fashioned in the mind of an author able to manipulate known-fact to put forward their opinion.

The premise of ‘A Daughter of Time’ is simple. Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard is hospitalised, and understandably bored, is brought several portraits by a friend to muse over, being an acknowledged expert in the study of faces through his profession. Upon being presented with an image of Richard III, whose identity is not instantly apparent to the policeman, Grant’s assessment of the man is that he was conscientious, a perfectionist, a worrier, presumably a man of great responsibility such as a judge or a soldier. The inspector is astonished when he discovers the man he made this positive judgement of was in fact Richard III, ‘the monster of nursery rhymes’ and the ‘destroyer of innocence’. Grant, however, fails to see any ‘villainy’ in the face of history’s most notorious royal criminal, and sets out to seek the ‘real Richard’ with the help of a young American research assistant. The result is a gradual realisation that Richard was, in fact, a good and kind king, unfairly maligned by the Tudors, in particular Sir Thomas More, who becomes something of a villain during the piece.

Now, the book is a fantastic read, an impressively gripping work that I finished in little over two days. I couldn’t put the book down. Nonetheless, for a book that has come to be regarded as the ‘bible’ of modern Ricardianism, it must be assessed for the quality of its argument, which I sadly feel is lacking, and one-dimensional at best.

As mentioned, Grant’s initial belief of Richard’s innocence stems from the portrait itself, bolstered oddly by a fictional account in a book he reads called the Rose of Raby. The inspector simply doesn’t believe the man in the portrait, a mere painting remember, was capable of the crimes he was accused of, which seems a worryingly generous, and simplistic, deducted by an apparently celebrated police inspector. At one point, the face is even considered to be saintly! I somehow fail to see a real-life inspector acting in such a manner.

By chapter 6, Grant encounter’s Thomas More and his exaggerated and embellished work on Richard III, much of which provided the basis for Shakespeare’s ridiculous caricature of the king. Here, Grant reacts with particular distaste to the discovery that More was only a boy during Richard’s life and therefore his work was based on second-hand gossip. Yes, More’s work was reliant on the testimony of other men, not least John Morton, but it seems churlish that this fact alone renders the entire work a fraud, and as a consequence redeems Richard. Basically, a nice face in the portrait and the fact that More was a child during the reign of Richard III turn Grant into a rabid Ricardian. From here on in, the inspector is determined to absolve Richard of any wrongdoing, something which, as the book is a fictional account and NOT academic, feels inevitable.

The more Grant learns about Richard, the more the case builds. It is not possible, the inspector muses, for such a popular duke to have become such a rash king, as the historical accounts state. They must all be wrong. How can this man, who was a good administrator and excellent military general, also be capable of such unscrupulous and villainous behaviour. Again, this apparently highly capable police inspector is being very generous to his subject. Humans are not inflexible; they are not one or the other. They are no binary. Humans are complex, and react to the world they live in. There is nothing to suggest that Richard III could have been a good administrator, a loyal brother, an excellent military man whilst also committing disastrous mistakes as king as the pressure of rule affected his decision-making.

Of course, to restore Richard’s attention, attention soon finds its way to Henry VII. The Henry portrayed in the book doesn’t have a single, redeeming quality. The financial policy known as ‘Morton’s Fork’ is brought up at length, ignoring the fact that Yorkist England had a similar policy under Edward IV, whilst the conclusion is reached that the Princes in the Tower must have survived into Henry’s reign simply because the Tudor king made no political capital from the disappearance. Furthermore, Richard couldn’t have done it because he had many other Yorkist nieces and nephews still living, and would therefore have had to kill them all to take the throne, again conveniently overlooking the reality of the situation in favour of genealogical theorising.

We also see it noted that as Elizabeth Woodville came out of sanctuary and reconciled somewhat with Richard III, then he couldn’t have killed her sons. This theory, of course, overlooks the fact that Richard had already, in fact, killed one of her sons from her first marriage, Richard Grey, in usurping the throne. Was his life irrelevant because he wasn’t a prince? All things considered, the evidence for Richard’s innocence in the book is flimsy, and doesn’t stand up to any in-depth analysis. There is a delicious irony in Inspector Grant bemoaning the two-dimensional thinking of historians when that’s basically what this very book is.

Other evidence is easily dismissed, or even fabricated. The Croyland Chronicler’s rumour of the princes’ deaths in 1483, during Richard’s reign, is dismissed off-hand as being because Morton was lurking in the vicinity at the time and was therefore clearly the source, whilst Henry VII is accused of murdering Richard’s illegitimate son John, something for which there is no contemporary evidence.

In summary, Grant’s (or should that be Tey’s?) argument for Richard’s innocence, with no alternative theories put forward, can be summed up as follows;

  • Richard’s face in a portrait doesn’t fit the face of a killer.
  • Richard had nothing to gain from the princes’ death.
  • Thomas More was only a boy during Richard’s reign, therefore everything he wrote must be discounted as nothing more than gossip
  • Henry VII never made any political capital from their disappearance, therefore he must have killed them
  • Elizabeth Woodville forgave Richard and therefore couldn’t have killed her sons
  • There was no contemporary reports of the princes’ death during Richard’s reign.

Each of the above points can be directly counter-argued, and in some cases completely dispelled. The portrait is just that, a portrait, and not particularly contemporary either therefore it’s irrelevant. Richard DID have something to benefit from the princes’ death, as they would have become the source of later disaffection and were hardly likely to roll over and allow their inheritance to be taken. More’s account was written many decades after Richard’s death, and certainly embellished, but that doesn’t alone render the entire work a lie. Henry VII may not have made political capital because he quite simply did not know what became of the princes when he finally secured the realm. And, of course, Elizabeth Woodville did forgive Richard, even though he had already killed one of her sons from her first marriage.

Of course, as this book isn’t a true work of history, it doesn’t take such counter-arguments into account. We only receive a selective, one-sided version, albeit dressed up as a policeman applying logic and reasoning, with results which any respectable historian would question. There is great merit in how the protagonists pull apart the work of Thomas More, and question the veracity of later sources like Hall and Holinshed, something all respectable historians must do, but the deductions the book comes too are based on circumstantial evidence. There is nothing solid that suggests Richard’s innocence, and the book doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny.

That all being said, I did enjoy the book but the reader must always be careful in being suckered by the content of a fictional book. This isn’t an unbiased, impartial account, irregardless of how well-researched the book may be; its heavily prejudiced, with facts bended or even omitted to ensure the story reaches a conclusion the author undoubtedly endorses. A fantastic novel, but very questionable as a genuine historical account.

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A History of Thornbury Castle

Tudors

Thornbury Castle is a magnificent retreat located in South Gloucestershire that is proudly proclaimed to be the only Tudor castle to presently operate as a hotel, a unique novelty that serves as a powerful selling point. As someone who recently stayed at the castle I can personally endorse Thornbury as an incredible place to visit and should be added to the bucket list of all who read this.

Thornbury Castle from the Tudor Gardens

Thornbury Castle from the Tudor Gardens

 

The History

In July 1510 Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, obtained a royal licence to undertake work at his manor of Thornbury, located on the edge of the Cotswolds. The manor had been in the Stafford family for generations and the ambitious duke sought to transform his pleasant retreat into a palatial home without rival anywhere else in the kingdom.

The proud and arrogant Buckingham was a descendant of the Plantagenet kings of England and had an impeccable bloodline through which he was not only well-connected, but also exceptionally wealthy. Nonetheless he had effectively been exiled from holding any power at court due to the pre-eminence of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and the king’s favourites such as Charles Brandon and William Compton. With an egotistical desire to attract attention and with money to burn, Buckingham set about a building campaign that would ensure his castle would be the grandest noble home in the kingdom.

The reasons for Buckingham’s desire to base himself at Thornbury, as opposed to one of his many other estates throughout England, are unclear but may be connected in part to his childhood. The duke’s father, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, had been an ally of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in 1483 and helped Gloucester claim the throne as Richard III. Within months the 2nd Duke turned against his king and launched a farcical rebellion to unseat Richard. After the collapse of his uprising the duke was captured and summarily executed in Salisbury.

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The young Edward Stafford’s uncertain future was somewhat secured when the seven-year-old’s wardship was given to Margaret Beaufort in 1486, the mother of the new king Henry VII and the esteemed matriarch of the Tudor Dynasty. It is a possibility Margaret placed the young boy at Thornbury Manor, a claim lent credence when taken into consideration the marriage of the duke’s mother Katherine Wydeville to Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and uncle to the king. It is known that Jasper based himself at Thornbury and would die there on 21 December 1495. His ghost is stated to roam the property.

After a childhood spent in close companionship with the royal family, Edward Stafford emerged into adulthood as a strong-headed and ostentatious character fully aware of his noble grandeur. It was such a boastful disposition that would inspire Thornbury Castle which was designed to rival the king’s own Hampton Court Palace as the greatest home in the kingdom.

Attempting to upstage the king however was not a recommended tactic. Work was still ongoing in 1521, more than a decade after it had commenced, when the arrest of the duke suddenly caused tools to be downed and construction halted. The duke’s crime had been to rouse suspicion of treason in the mind of the increasingly paranoid king he had attempted to upstage – Henry VIII.

By 1521 the king was entering his 30’s and had yet to produce a legitimate male heir. Thoughts were slowly beginning to form about the event of a succession crisis and many were allegedly turning their heads towards the Duke of Buckingham, who it may be argued had a greater claim to the throne than Henry VIII. A foreign ambassador stated admiringly ‘my lord of Buckingham, a noble man and would be a royal ruler’.

The Thornbury Tower

The Thornbury Tower

Furthermore the duke possessed substantial wealth, evident from his transformation of Thornbury into a palatial home. The king’s finances meanwhile were in disarray and the treasury empty. The combination of these factors left Buckingham exposed to the king’s ruthless nature, which erupted in April 1521 when the duke was summoned to court and placed in the Tower of London. His downfall was swift; he was charged with intending to kill the king and executed on Tower Hill on 17 May. His wealth and property, including Thornbury Castle, was seized by the crown and became King Henry VIII’s.

After this period the castle was occasionally used by the king’s daughter Mary, who would regularly stay in Thornbury during her teenage years whilst she was a student of the Bishop of Exeter. It was during the summer of 1535 however that the castle received notoriety when Thornbury played host to King Henry VIII and his new queen Anne Boleyn for 10 days. The pair arrived on 14 August and departed to Acton Court on 22 August, the 50th anniversary of the Tudors accession to the throne at Bosworth Field. Whilst at Thornbury Henry was visited by a delegation from nearby Bristol who brought him 10 oxen and 40 sheep whilst Anne was presented with a gilt cup containing 100 marks of gold.

Thereafter the premises gradually fell out of favour, even after it was restored to the Stafford family who nonetheless never regained their former position. By the 19th century the ruined estate was in the hands of the Howard family, ironically kin to Anne Boleyn, and renovated as a home for a minor branch of the family. It was further restored in the 20th century by various owners and eventually reopened to the public as a hotel.

 

The Castle Today

The castle today still possesses many features which would have been recognisable to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn during their progress in 1535. The main surviving wing of the castle is what would have been the southern range, which would have been the heart of Buckingham’s project.

The rooms that today constitute the Lounge, Library and Dining Rooms were a core part of the Duchess’ Bedchamber and Drawing Rooms. The Lounge possesses wonderfully wooden panelling and a giant fireplace which would have played a crucial role in warming the rooms. The intricate five-bay window in the middle of the room floods the room with light during the day and would have done the same five centuries ago. The octagonal dining room, replete with arrow slit windows and another fire place, would have been a bedchamber and occupy the ground floor of the castle’s great tower. These rooms as a whole would have hosted Anne Boleyn in August 1535, now utilised by the hotel as an atmospheric area to enjoy wining and dining.

The Lounge, formerly part of the Duchess' Apartments

The Lounge, formerly part of the Duchess’ Apartments

 

The Duke's Bedchamber

The Duke’s Bedchamber

 

The second floor of the great tower contains a room christened the Duke’s Bedchamber and it is within here Henry VIII slept during the same stay. The room is accessible via a spiral staircase and is also an octagonal chamber with fireplace and impressive views of the gardens. Elsewhere the castle is a myriad of corridors and doorways to wander through and explore, each room respectfully furnished in the Tudor style.

Outside the castle the Tudor gardens are stated to be the earliest extant example of 16th century gardens in the UK, and offer a great view of southern range’s rear. Particularly noticeable is the five-bay oriel window in its glory, the tower along with the ruined gallery which had previously connected the bedchambers to the nearby church, and the chimneys atop the range. These chimneys are a particularly noteworthy feature of Thornbury Castle, replicated only at Hampton Court.

Early Tudor Chimneys

Early Tudor Chimneys

Thornbury Castle is a truly a Tudor masterpiece that offers an unrivalled experience to the visitor. In total there are 26 luxurious chambers to stay in, many with four-poster beds, plus an award-winning chef and extensive wine cellar to enjoy. With its impressive array of heavy oak doors, breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, Thornbury and its captivating history is certainly worthy of a visit from any 16th century aficionado.

A Review of Battle of Bosworth Heritage Centre

Tudors

Bosworth. A name that is firmly entrenched in the lexicon of England’s history as bridging point between the Medieval and Modern eras, a location where one King was slain and another was made. The wailing death throes of the Plantagenet dynasty was heard around these fields and equally so was the birth cries of their successor family, the Tudor’s. This fact alone makes the area a shrine for enthusiasts of both Royal houses. Bosworth and the battle that was pitched in these parts on a summer’s day in 1485 is rooted in the consciousness of the nation and certainly a place that deserves a visit every once in a while.

With such a prestigious history in its arsenal, a trip to this location is imperative if one wishes to transport themselves back to the beginning of the Tudor era and cast their own eyes over the very same landscape that would have greeted those involved 500 years earlier. The battle has always been known as “The Battle of Bosworth”, adapting the name of a near settlement in the traditional way that battles became known as, albeit two things need to be noted straight away. The Battle of Bosworth Heritage Visitor Centre is not located in Market Bosworth itself and after recent investigations it turns out it isn’t even the real battle location anyway. The Lottery-funded study a few years ago uncovered the most likely site a few miles in a south westerly direction towards Fenny Drayton but ultimately it is an irrelevant outcome to those of a non-archaeological background. The Visitor centre is built next to the previous battlesite candidate of Ambion Hill and is certainly set in one of the most rural and picturesque parts of England. The drive involves sweeping country lanes after leaving the Watling Street A5 with fields all around, many that would have been trampled across by hundreds of hooves and soldiers in 1485 on their way to and from the fighting. As you turn from the road and drive along the path you will notice to the right on the field an enormous flag blowing proudly in the wind, the banner being the very image of the one raised aloft at the head of Richard’s army on that fateful August morn.

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When you arrive at the Visitor Centre itself the first thing that will attract your gaze is the large Coat of Arms of King Richard III on the brick wall, his White Boar emblem distinctive and quickly giving you an idea as to who truly is the King and centre of attention at this centre. As you walk through the gates on your left is a gathering of medieval devices in a small arena termed “Ambion Village”, a reconstruction of sorts and a taster of life for the peasant class of the locality. As you turn into the courtyard of sorts immediately on your right is the glass entrance to the “Tithe Restaurant”, a typical café/restaurant type structure in which the main selling point is the authentic barn it has been constructed in, complete with atmospheric wooden beams along the roof. The Jacket Potatoes are certainly worth a try too! As you enter the courtyard proper you will notice on your right a pair of stocks for the perfect photo opportunity and around the corner the standard Gift Shop and two more reasonable photo opportunities. It is here that “Richard’s Stone” is kept, a large boulder that used to be located in the field where it was previously thought the last Plantagenet King was killed and also an empty stone coffin in which it is thought his remains were at one time kept. Going indoors you are met with the ticket desk and the beginning of the impressive exhibition, with an interactive screen introducing you to a myriad of characters whom educate you about their daily lives as you make your way through the maze of information in the exhibition itself. The Exhibition itself begins when you walk through a faux field tent into the first room which educates you with a simple explanation of the Wars of the Roses as well as 15th century home furniture and tools including a cutlery knife and a wooden barrel for storing ale.

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The next room gives you details about the preparation for battle and more information on Henry Tudor and where his claim and forces came from, complete with large portraits of both men. Moving onwards, the largest room in the display has one wall covered with the weaponry of the age including pikes, axes, swords and crossbows, giving an insight into the barbarity that existed during medieval warfare. To further enhance this mental image, there are two life size mannequins kitted out in the full armoury of a foot soldier, including chainmail and helmet. As well as heraldry practice for the children and the possibility to try on various pieces of armour in front of a mirror in the circle centrepiece of the exhibition is large screens playing a recurring video of the events of the battle complete with animated side panels offering further information. This room also offers you the opportunity to try a bow and arrow to see how far you can shoot this ancient weapon, myself of course scoring the highest of  240m and “losing an arrow” as I overshot the enemy! Whilst two large statues of the rival combatants look on, the atmospheric video room also has a side room entitled “The Surgeon” with a reconstructed skull displaying gruesome war injuries as well as a display case showing the horrendous tools available to an injured soldier, think of knifes, tweezers and hooks and you’re on the right lines.

In the room titled “Aftermath” we are given brief descriptions of how Henry Tudor quelled the wars itself by marrying Elizabeth of York albeit it does touch on the uprisings he suffered early in his reign. It also gives further information about the rest of the victorious dynasty including a statue of Henry VIII and details on Tudor artefacts and architecture. The final room is a recent inclusion and is dubbed the “BFI Lab”. It is here where the latest findings from extensive battle field investigations are stored, including a skeleton complete with war wounds and display cases with real finds including coins, horse pendants and belt buckles that would have fallen from the slain soldiers or fleeing Yorkists. Exiting through the gift shop you find yourself at the starting point of a roughly 2mile walk through around the battlefield path, the first section taking you up past the enormous Yorkist banner of Richard III to the remembrance sundial, two large wooden chairs representing each monarch. The path also takes you down to a well christened “Richard’s Well” and where he apparently took a drink before battle and which is now a popular spot for visitors. All in all, the walk is a pleasant stroll in the summer and the surrounding fields allow a perfect place to sit and enjoy a picnic. The Battle of Bosworth may no longer be accepted as being in this particular location but the centre is vital in not only providing detailed analysis and education to visitors it also allows the visitor to mentally revisit one of this country’s most infamous events with their own eyes. Set in an idyllic and rural part of Middle England, even without a passing interest in the topic should not stop you from visiting.

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